PAKISTAN and China have reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and agreed to expand and reinforce political and security cooperation, bilateral trade, economic and financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, tourism and people-to-people ties. The understanding came in the third round of Pakistan-China bilateral political consultations (BPC) held in Beijing where Pakistan was represented by Foreign Secretary Dr Asad Majeed Khan while the Chinese side was led by Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong.
The bilateral consultations have been held in the backdrop of fast changing regional and global developments and deteriorating economic situation in Pakistan and, therefore, the commitment of the two sides to enhance high-level engagements and dialogue mechanisms and make the channels of communication even more robust assumes greater relevance. We have been emphasizing in these columns, time and again, that all-encompassing cooperation with China should be strengthened as it offers the surest way to tackle some of the fundamental economic and financial challenges facing Pakistan. People of Pakistan are thankful to China that at a time when the country was being squeezed by some countries, China is not only providing financial assistance to bail it out and prevent a default but also offers much-needed diplomatic and political support. This has once again been highlighted by an unequivocal statement made by Vice Foreign Minister Sun reaffirming China’s support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and economic security. There are also consistent rumours about a halt in activities under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but the BPC noted completion of a decade of CPEC, reaffirming their commitment to the historic project which remained a major pillar of bilateral cooperation and a symbol of ever-deepening friendship between Pakistan and China. They also agreed to remain engaged in the expansion of CPEC including participation of third parties to enhance regional connectivity and cooperation. China believes in shared prosperity and has no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of any country. It has also established its credentials as a neutral arbiter by bringing estranged Saudi Arabia and Iran closer and as a follow up there is now an invitation from King Salman to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for a visit, which has been welcomed by Tehran. In the changing regional scenario, it is time that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir pay visits to China for in-depth talks with Chinese leadership.